Sometimes, some social problems are so evident that they often go unnoticed. Sajilo Marmat Sewa is an innovative start-up which recognizes the various problems that exist in the blue-collar job market of Nepal and tries to successfully solve it.
In conversation with Kawish Bhakta Shrestha, Co-founder at Sajilo Maramat Sewa (SMS.)
1. What are the social problems that you’re trying to solve, and how are your services helping to solve these social problems?
The problem that we are trying to solve has two aspects. Firstly, from the point of view of customers, and secondly from the point of view of the service providers or the technicians who we work with and call our partners.
The social problem that we are trying to solve mainly affects the technicians or the partners of SMS. Technicians in Kathmandu have graduated from technical schools and are well-trained. But, they are wildly exploited by their contractors. Another problem is that although the blue-collar workers are widely demanded in Nepal, they still migrate to nations like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Korea away from their families and children despite their will just to earn a living for themselves. If not for the exploitation, these workers can earn a similar living, or more, in Nepal itself.
On the other hand, we have our customers unable to find professional and reliable people to solve their home maintenance problems. So, there’s a lack of bridge that connects customers to professional blue-collar workers who are available in the market. Sajilo Maramat Sewa is that bridge. We are helping the blue- collar workers find meaningful and dignified work in their home country. We have interviewed more than 500 workers and have found that they do not desire to go abroad to work. However, they do not find employment here. The catch, however, is that there are jobs available but there is a lack of accessibility to find these jobs. So, Sajilo Maramat Sewa is trying to solve the problem of underemployment, exploitation of technical workforce inside and outside the country, and brain-drain in Nepal.
2. How has been the journey of Sajilo Maramat Sewa and when did it start?
Sajilo Maramat Sewa started as a class project in entrepreneurship during our MBA at Kathmandu University School of Management. Once we progressed with our research, we came to an understanding that the problem that we are trying to solve is quite evident and believed that we may be able to solve it. So, we participated in a program called Idea Hunt, which was an intra-KU business Pitch competition and won. After winning Idea Hunt, we were able to get an incubation at Idea studio where we were trained by many successful entrepreneurs and teachers. This way we were able to work with many professionals to refine the idea and started this company right after our MBA in 2017. So, we are officially a two years old startup.
3. What were the various sources of investment to start this venture?
We started this venture through our personal savings. This includes me and my co-founders- Pukar and Sujeet. We did not receive any seed capital, to begin with, however, we recently participated in MIT-GSL competition and were able to win it. From this, we were able to generate an additional investment of five lakhs for the company.
4. How much investment is required to establish a service company like SMS? Also, what is its legal structure?
We began this company with a paid-up capital of 18 lakhs. However, we did not inject all the capital at once and are still injecting since it’s growing. We are a Private Limited Company registered in VAT. The three co-founders are the shareholders of this company.
5. What is your current staff strength, and how many people did you begin with?
Currently, we have ten full-time employees who work from the office and manage everything. Other than that, we also have 65 technicians or partners who work in the marketplace. We initially began with two full-time employees. They were our plumbing supervisors and electrical supervisors. It was very difficult to find them, and it took us almost 3-4 months of recruitment and selection process. However, whatever we have achieved till now is because of them.
6. What are the major challenges that you faced?
The first challenge that you face as a young entrepreneur is the risk of starting a venture. Although the culture of entrepreneurship is building in Nepal, the climate here is not as supportive yet. The entrepreneur ecosystem here is risk-averse. Banks do not give you money, investors only want to invest in mature companies, and angel investors do not exist in Nepal. So it is very difficult for start-ups to make it to the level that is achieved in other countries. Another major challenge for us was bringing technicians on board and to making them work in a professional environment.
7. What are the current needs of SMS?
The current need for us is getting investment to grow our company. Similarly, we are looking forward to infusing advanced technology into SMS. So, we’re also looking for technological partners to collaborate with.
8. How many customers are you serving currently?
We are currently serving more than 3500 household customers, more than 100 corporate clients, and 30 annual maintenance contracts that also includes multinational companies.
9. Who are your target customers?
We have three target customers- businesses, individual customers and technical partners. Currently, we are focusing on B2B clients over B2C clients.
10. Is there a market potential, profitability, and scalability for SMS?
Of course! Being a social entrepreneur and creating a solution for society and creating value for customers is of our primary focus and profitability is a consequence of it. Also, without profits, we cannot survive and serve our purpose. The market potential for a business like ours is huge. In a short span of two years, we have served more than 5000 hundred households and more than 100 clients which is less than 5% of the market. The market will expand not just in terms of services, but also in terms of geography.
11. What are the future plans for your company?
Right now, we are catering our services to the cities of Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur. In the near future, we will expand our services to cities like Pokhara, Bhairahawa, and Nepalgunj. The main focus for the future is to strengthen our internal backbone to achieve operational efficiency in order to maximize the value of our partners and customers by adopting technological tools. We want to become the future marketplace for people who want maintenance services and skilled technicians.
12. Have you been able to measure the impact of your services?
Yes, a lot of our partners have told us that we have been able to provide our technical partners with the dignity of labor and not just jobs. In our internal meetings, we have been told by our technical partners that people treat them with respect when they go to do the maintenance work wearing our brands. This is the major value our partners look for so we have impacted their lives for better. We have been able to measure this impact through monthly interactions.
13. Do you consider yourself as a social entrepreneur?
Yes. I do consider myself as a social entrepreneur because through SMS I have been able to give back to society. I have worked in the corporate world but that never made me happy because I knew I could do so much more. SMS is a way to release my burning desire to do something in Nepal for Nepal. That’s why I consider myself a social entrepreneur.